General News of Wednesday, 7 February 2018
Parliament yesterday exonerated the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyerematen, officials of the Ministry and managers of the Millennium Excellence Foundation (MEF) from any wrongdoing in the cash-for-seat saga.
The exoneration followed the adoption of the report of the five-member Special ad hoc Committee of Parliament that concluded that there were no adverse findings against the officials.
The committee was set up by the Speaker to investigate allegations that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) was involved in the collection of between $15,000 and $100,000 from expatriate businesses to secure them a seat at the table of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards in Accra on December 8, 2017.
The Chairman of the ad hoc committee, Mr Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh, read the committee’s report, but before he could do so, the Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) walked out of Parliament.
Mr Kyerematen and officials of the Millennium Excellence Foundation (MEF) were in Parliament to witness the proceedings of Parliament.
Reading the committee’s report, Mr Ameyaw-Cheremeh said in the evaluation of the totality of the evidence adduced before the committee, it was unable to say that the MoTI imposed levies as captured in the motion.
“It seems to us that there is no evidence to support the claim of an imposition of levy by MoTI,” he said.
Mr Ameyaw-Cheremeh said within the framework of the memorandum of understanding (MoU), it was the exclusive responsibility of MEF to raise funds or sponsorship for the event.
Besides, he said, pursuant to the principle of transparency and accountability, the MoU also enjoined MEF to deposit all funds raised in a dedicated MoTI account.
He said from the references of the MoU, the MEF was to raise the funds for the awards event, and the money raised should be paid into a designated account of the MoTI.
Mr Ameyaw-Cheremeh said MoTI acted within the confines of Regulations 28 of the Financial Administration Regulations by issuing receipts of the payments, adding that the disbursements of the funds raised did not offend any law.
He said there was no evidence of extortion, since none of the sponsors of the event alluded to compulsion, coercion, threat, pressure, duress, order or command to make any payment towards the event.
Within the context of the MoU, Mr Ameyaw-Cheremeh said, it was the responsibility of the MoTI to ensure that the President, together with Ministers of State, were to be present during the awards event.
He said none of the members of the expatriate business community who appeared before the committee said anything to the effect that they made contributions or attended the event with the view to having access to the President.
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, accused the Minority of trying to hold Parliament to ransom and stated that with or without the Minority, Parliament would work.
The Speaker of Parliament asked the ad hoc committee to make the documents available to the Privileges Committee of the House for it to give consequential recommendations.
Making the case for the walk out, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said the MPs received the 146-page report only yesterday, and so they could not read it to make any useful contribution to the issue.
Besides, he said, the views of the Minority members on the ad hoc committee had not been incorporated into the final report, and so they could not be part of the motion.
“You can proceed with the motion but the Minority is unable to participate,” he said.
Mr Iddrisu said the Controller and Accountant General had made useful contributions when he appeared before the committee, but his views had not been captured in the report.
After the report had been read, with the Majority MPs making contributions and subsequently adopting it, the Minority MPs held a press conference to present their version of the report.
Speaking at the press conference, the MP for Bolgatanga East and Minority member on the ad hoc committee, Dr Dominic Ayine, accused the Chairman of the committee of refusing to incorporate the views of the Minority in the report.
He said the Majority had deviated from the substance of the investigation and glossed over ethical and legal matters.
Dr Ayine said per the transcripts of evidence available, the Minority had concluded that in the design of the package, the MEF assigned price tags of $50, 000, $70,000 and $100,000 for seats close to the President.
“There was evidence for money to be paid and money was paid in accordance with the package. In our view, there was a levy and there was collection of levy,” he said.
Dr Ayine said the MoTl and MEF did not give accounts of how the GH¢2.3 million was collected and disbursed.
Besides, he said, the Controller and Accountant General had not supplied the committee with the bank statement of how the money was paid.
Dr Ayine accused the MEF of forging documents to give a different designation to the founder of the foundation.
He said the Minority had concluded that there was extortion in terms of getting the companies to pay.
“Matters such as the possible forgery of documents designed to deceive the committee, possible violations of foreign corrupt practice legislation and international convention by the involvement of the foreign businesses is thus a fraudulent misrepresentation relating to the benefits of the awards scheme which have all been glossed over by the Majority,” he said.
On December 29, 2017, an application by the Minority, led by its Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak-Muntaka, filed a motion calling for investigations into the levy and collection by the Ministry of Trade and Industry of the Ghana cedi equivalent of various sums of money in US dollars from expatriate businesses and related matters at the event.
Consequently, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, directed the formation of the committee after a debate over a motion on the subject matter moved by the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, at an emergency sitting of Parliament.